Digital Billboards Impede Green Energy Goals

From Scenic Los Angeles President, Patrick Frank

The largest concentration of digital billboards in Southern California is in the city of Inglewood, bordering Los Angeles International Airport. A local business known as Wow Media Co. owns and operates 14 boards along Century, Manchester, and La Cienega Blvds., several of which are also clearly visible from the adjacent 405 freeway.

How much power do those 14 billboards use? About as much as 13 Los Angeles apartment buildings. The industry is notoriously secretive about its power consumption, but in October of 2019 a billboard industry blog stated that one 10 x 30 foot board in Texas used 20,440 kilowatt hours (kwh) of power per year. That’s the industry talking, so you can bet that it’s a conservative number. The average LA household uses 6000 kwh per year, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. That average includes every home, from apartments to mansions.

Let’s do the math: Eight of the boards in Inglewood are 14 by 48 feet in size, or 672 square feet. Using the Texas figures, those boards each use 45,785 kwh per year, or about 7.5 average LA households. The other six boards that face the 405 freeway are much bigger at 1200 square feet; those could supply 13.5 households each. (For comparison, a traditional static billboard with illumination uses about as much power as one household per year.) So the 14 digital billboards in Inglewood consume as much electricity as 133 Los Angeles households. That’s thirteen 10-unit apartment buildings, or perhaps 100 moderate-sized single-family homes. Enough power to charge 69 million cell phones, according to the EPA. The Inglewood boards are also capable of full-motion animation, which increases their power usage. An e-mailed request for information to the Wow Media Co. went unanswered.

Most American cities, including Los Angeles, have set goals for conservation and green energy. Every digital billboard installed makes those goals harder to reach.